Evergreen Seabass takes Thurles heat for Walshes
Former Aintree Grand National third Seabass returned to the winner's enclosure in style with a tremendous success in the David O'Halloran Memorial Rated Novice Hurdle at Thurles.
Never far off the pace set by Conal, the Katie Walsh-ridden 12-year-old was full of running and took over on the long run to two out. Sent off at 20/1 but taking his hurdles with real panache, Ted Walsh's charge kept finding when asked and came home six lengths clear of favourite Just Cause.
His effort at Aintree remains the best placing achieved by a female rider in the world's greatest steeplechase.
Walsh's charge had only returned to the track at Punchestown earlier this month after a 21-month, injury-enforced absence, and his delighted trainer said: "This is as good a day as I've ever had! He's some horse and is part of the household at this stage. He's had more trouble than 10 horses, but Ruby rode him the last day and said he galloped away and that there was life in the old dog yet.
"He's rated 140 over fences so where would you go with him, but he got into this and I was just hoping he'd show a bit of spark.
"He's only had 22 or 23 runs in his entire life and god knows what he would have achieved if he had a trouble-free run."
Gordon Elliott has a huge few days coming up over the festive period and warmed up with former Donald McCain inmate, Desoto County, in the Horse & Jockey Hotel Handicap Hurdle.
Ridden by rising star Jack Kennedy, the smooth-travelling grey effectively fought it out with Cliff House over the final two flights and was the stronger on the run from the last.
A length and three-quarters was the winning margin, with Daliyan, which had disputed early matters with Rory O'Moore, 12 lengths back in third.
Elliott, set to run stable star Don Cossack in the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton on Saturday, said of the 11/10 favourite: "He had been showing signs and was working well enough at home and should come on from that."
The red-hot Willie Mullins team suffered an odds-on reverse as Haymount could find no answer to the Pat Kelly-trained, Davy Russell-ridden Mall Dini in the maiden hurdle.
Haymount had run a good race on his hurdling bow behind stablemate Royal Caviar over two miles at this venue last month, but was unable to build on that over two-and-three-quarter miles, finishing fully 16 lengths behind the 7/2 winner in second.
And it was another odds-on blow for Mullins in the concluding bumper, with Merry Night never a factor as New To This Town (11/1) made a winning racecourse debut for Jessica and Kate Harrington.